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Henri Béhar

(b Tinchebray, Feb 19, 1896; d Paris, Sept 28, 1966).

French writer. While still an adolescent he came under the influence of Paul Valéry and Gustave Moreau, who for a long period were to influence his perception of beauty. From that time on, his poetic creation interrelated with his reflections on art, which like Gide’s were conditioned by a moral code. He considered that it is not possible to write for a living, but only from interior necessity; in the same way, painting must always derive from an irrepressible need for self-expression. These criteria guided Breton both in his dealings with the Surrealist group (of which he was the uncontested leader) and in his articles on painting, collected in editions of Le Surréalisme et la peinture (first published in 1928).

Breton’s family were of modest means. He was educated in the modern section of a lycée, without any Latin or Greek, and had embarked on a study of medicine when he was called up to serve in World War I. During this period he was drawn to poetry by his fascination with Arthur Rimbaud. His meeting with the aesthete Jacques Vaché temporarily dulled his interest in Rimbaud, and instead he turned to Guillaume Apollinaire, whose advice and friendship were a significant influence on him. Through Apollinaire he came into contact with Marie Laurencin, Derain, De Chirico and Picasso, and became friendly with the French poet and novelist Philippe Soupault. The review ...

Article

Dada  

Dawn Ades and Matthew Gale

Artistic and literary movement launched in Zurich in 1916 but shared by independent groups in New York, Berlin, Paris, and elsewhere. The Dadaists channelled their revulsion at World War I into an indictment of the nationalist and materialist values that had brought it about. They were united not by a common style but by a rejection of conventions in art and thought, seeking through their unorthodox techniques, performances, and provocations to shock society into self-awareness. The name Dada itself was typical of the movement’s anti-rationalism. Various members of the Zurich group are credited with the invention of the name; according to one account it was selected by the insertion of a knife into a dictionary and was retained for its multilingual, childish, and nonsensical connotations. The Zurich group was formed around the poets Hugo Ball, Emmy Hennings, Tristan Tzara, and Richard Huelsenbeck, and the painters Hans Arp, Marcel Janco, and ...

Article

Francis M. Naumann

(b Blainville, Normandy, July 28, 1887; d Neuilly-sur-Seine, Oct 2, 1968).

French painter, sculptor and writer, active also in the USA. The art and ideas of Duchamp, perhaps more than those of any other 20th-century artist, have served to exemplify the range of possibilities inherent in a more conceptual approach to the art-making process. Not only is his work of historical importance—from his early experiments with Cubism to his association with Dada and Surrealism—but his conception of the ready-made decisively altered our understanding of what constitutes an object of art. Duchamp refused to accept the standards and practices of an established art system, conventions that were considered essential to attain fame and financial success: he refused to repeat himself, to develop a recognizable style or to show his work regularly. It is the more theoretical aspects implicit to both his art and life that have had the most profound impact on artists later in the century, allowing us to identify Duchamp as one of the most influential artists of the modern era....

Article

Montage  

Tom Williams

Term that refers to the technique of organizing various images into a single composition in both film and visual art. It is also frequently applied to musical and literary works that emphasize fragmentation and paratactic construction. In film, the term typically refers to the organization of individual shots to create a larger structure or narrative. This technique was developed most systematically by the film makers of the 1920s Russian avant-garde such as Sergey Eisenstein (1898–1948), Lev Kuleshov (1899–1970), and Vsevolod Pudovkin (1893–1953). In visual art, the term refers to the juxtaposition of disparate images in Collage and particularly Photomontage. Although this use of montage has a number of historical precursors, it was developed primarily in the 1910s and 1920s by artists associated with Dada, Surrealism, and Russian Constructivism such as George Grosz, John Heartfield, Hannah Höch, and Aleksandr Rodchenko. During the period after World War II, the technique became an increasingly routine practice in both advertising and the fine arts. In the late 20th century it has been most associated with the work of such figures as ...